Barely

I’ve been encountering some further wildlife. On Monday it was a skunk, not far from the last one. It might even have been the same animal. I was running along an unlit section of trail on Bay Farm Island and just thinking “Hmm smells a bit skunky here” before realizing that the dark patch on the trail ahead was matching my speed. I stopped, and it ducked into the long grass to the side. The strip of green is only about ten feet wide with a dropoff to the bay, so I waited for a few seconds. There he was, doubling back in the grass. He stopped opposite me with his tail up and I slowly started walking. Down went the tail, and we went our separate ways. The very next day I nearly ran over a raccoon in Alameda, He remained calm while I zigged past him. Sheesh!

There has been a lot of chatter about running barefoot or in minimal shoes lately. I’ve read Christopher McDougall’s “Born To Run”, looked at some of the punditry online, and formed some tentative conclusions. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that people with chronic injury problems have seen some improvement after they started to run barefoot or in very thin shoes. Most of these runners are not high-mileage or particularly fast, so it’s reasonable to suppose that their problems were gait-related. Of the various ways to improve your form, running barefoot has the advantage that it works without supervision from a coach. I’ve been self-doctoring my gait for quite a while now, and think it’s still capable of improvement. I’ve added some barefoot minutes to my shorter runs. I don’t think it’s changing my footstrike much (I’m mid-to-heel), but I’m bending my knees a bit more. I need to keep at it to see if it’s having any effect on my shod running. It’s fun to do, and gives me a better appreciation of my feet as a collection of moving parts.

Apparently quite a few track coaches have their runners do barefoot drills on grass, so this is not exactly new. I’m running on a smooth well-lit concrete path near to home, since suitable grass is not available nearby. This being January, I can only run for a few minutes before my feet get cold which is no bad thing. Easy does it. Will I be getting some “Foot Gloves” to extend my forays? I’m going to try something a little more basic first. Barefoot Ted, who appeared in McDougall’s book, got a lesson in sandal-making from Manuel Luna of the Tarahumara tribe in Copper Canyon. He is now selling custom-made and kit Huarache running sandals from his website. I have ordered a kit. It puts a bit of protective stuff between your foot and the sharp stones. This is your basic running footgear 1.0, as might have been worn by Achilles as he ran down Hector under the walls of Troy, only updated with modern rubber. It might be fun, or it might be a bust. At some point I’ll be trying on some flats. Brooks make some nice ones.

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3 Responses to “Barely”


  1. 1 Flo January 14, 2010 at 7:20 am

    Lol, I love the dark patch following you. Thank goodness it kept its stink to itself or it’d be a bath in tomato juice for you! (I think that’s the usual skunk fix).

    Cool on the barefoot running but more particularly on the sandal kit. I’ve never heard of that so am looking forward to photos of the finished product. Crafts and running, who knew? Next you’ll be getting a leather burning kit from Tandy.

  2. 2 Loraine McVey January 18, 2010 at 8:34 am

    Very interesting Jim.

    I’m interested in hearing what you have to say about bending the knees more. Since I’m often running behind you and others I get to notice these things … why more knee bendy = good? Sometimes when I see runners with the high back kick/bending knees a lot kind of stride I think it looks pretty tiring. When I watch one of our faster runners (AL) I notice a low amount of knee bending going on and it looks pretty fast and economical to me.

    We must see pics of the DIY sandals!

  3. 3 jime2 January 18, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    Flo – Actually the dark patch was ahead of me, keeping pace from in front I’m not sure what i would have done had he been chasing me!

    Loraine – I was referring the the amount of knee bend there is at the point of landing, which absorbs some of the landing shock. Your question cuts to the heart of the whole barefoot thing, I think. There come a point at which the ride becomes too soft for speed. Exaggerated knee bend absorbs much more shock than shoes ever can, but it also slows you down. I find I’m bending my knees less than I did at first, even with the tiny barefoot distances I’m doing. I’m running short bursts at about marathon pace now, which feels rather interesting with “zero-weight shoes”. 🙂 The sandals have not arrived yet, but yes, there will be pictures.


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Race PRs

5K20:43 (LMJS 6/28/09
10K43:44
12K54:36 (Across Bay 3/21/10)
15K1:09:51 (LMJS 19/27/09)
Half1:31:28 (Kaiser 2012
Marathon 3;13:14 (CIM '11)

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